In the 1993 film, "Philadelphia" starring Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington, the lawyer character portrayed by Washington in a court scene indicates he's confused by some of the supposed facts of the case being offered up by a witness and, therefore, wants things explained to him in simpler terms: "Explain it to me like I'm a third grader," he says to the witness he's cross-examining, "because I just don't get it."
Granted, Washington's portraying a clever attorney in the film, a lawyer who probably isn't overly confused, but instead is trying to gain points with the jury.
There was no jury and no courtroom antics in the Crookston City Hall conference room a couple weeks ago, however, when city council members, Mayor Dave Genereux and City Administrator Tony Chladek spent more than four hours discussing budget matters, in a session that was described to the Times by one person in the room as being "frustratingly unproductive."
(Note: The council terminated Chladek at its Monday, Aug. 12 meeting, but the city administrator's departure really doesn't alter much of the point of this editorial.)
Much of the frustration at the long budget session stemmed from a lengthy discussion about the Crookston Sports Center budget, a discussion that eventually had to be tabled because Finance Director Angel Hoeffner was on vacation and not in attendance, and no one seemed to be able to explain how the City of Crookston, Crookston Civic Arena LLC and Parks & Recreation Department all somehow intertwine, co-mingle and otherwise overlap here and there to formulate a legible CSC budget that makes sense to anyone without a Ph.D. in finance.
Council member Tom Jorgens said that, despite several prior requests, he had yet to see the CSC budget broken down into basic terms on a single sheet of paper. Chladek countered that Jorgens had been presented previously with just such a single sheet, and then copies were made for everyone around the table. Then everyone looked at the sheet, yet few, if anyone seemed to know exactly what all the numbers added up to, much less what they all meant to the city's overall budget.
"It's all right there," Chladek said in reference to the sheet of paper breaking down CSC-related revenue and expenses and how it all ties in with the city, Crookston Civic Arena LLC and Parks & Recreation Department.
It may, indeed, have been all right there, but that doesn't mean anyone grasped much of it.
Which means maybe it's time for a very detailed yet very elementary explanation on just how in the heck this all is supposed to work...elementary enough that a third-grader might be able to understand it. Numbers on a sheet of paper are one thing, but someone providing everyone a written and oral history of how all these numbers came to be might go a long way.
Page 2 of 2 - At the heart of the confusion is the LLC, which had to be formed in order for the CSC budget to be augmented by $2 million in New Market Tax Credit revenue. When the construction bids came in favorable, the $2 million meant that the top two priorities for the facility – three sheets of ice and a decent seating capacity in the Event Arena – would be a reality.
When the tax credit financing is paid off, the budget should become more streamlined. But, in the meantime, the CSC budget, to most who try to decipher it, is simply too complex. Maybe invite former City Clerk/Treasurer Betty Arvidson to a meeting. Heck, get former City Administrator Aaron Parrish on a conference call. Do something other than what's being done right now, because the people who should know how all this works don't seem to know how all this works.